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Post-Tenure Reviews Of The Institutions In Different States Of The USA

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Since 1980s, the number of state and private institutions with post-tenure reviews is rapidly increasing. Majority of states currently mandate state institutions to implement post-tenure reviews. (Euben, 2005) Post-tenure reviews are an attempt to assure accountability and quality of services by tenured faculty. Some argue this practice can incentivize faculty, making them more productive as researchers and as teachers, especially if such reviews are tied to financial incentives (Barnard & Wang, 2008). However, accountability in higher education is not a clearly defined term. Therefore, implementation of post-tenure review varies from state to state and, sometimes, institution to institution. For example, South Carolina state colleges post-tenure review includes consequences to negative review including possible dismissal.

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In contrast, Drexel University post-tenure review is entirely voluntary and bears no consequence to pay, status, or continuation of tenure. With such fluctuations in policies, it is not surprising post-tenure review has been challenged. The state courts also vary in interpretation of imposition of consequences stemming from post-tenure reviews (Euben, 2005). In 2012, the University of Las Vegas dismissed a tenured professor based on several years of unsatisfactory evaluations. Under the University’s code, tenured professors could be dismissed with two consecutive unsatisfactory evaluations. Dr. Sutton filed a suit and UNLV was ordered by the court to reinstate him “until [it is] revoked by a hearing held pursuant to the university code” (State v Sutton, 2004).

Six months later, UNLV held a hearing to dismiss Sutton based on previous record of unsatisfactory post-tenure reviews. The court ruled for Sutton and held that UNLV breached their contract with Sutton by using earlier evaluations as a basis of dismissal. (State v Sutton, 2004) Contrary to this decision, Kansas courts ruled in favor of Kansas State University in post-tenure review dismissal of Dr. Weist who received three consecutive unsatisfactory reviews and refused to cooperate with the review process. The court held “that there was substantial competent evidence to support Kansas State’s decision to terminate Wiest” (Wiest v State, 2002).

Similarly, Oklahoma courts ruled in favor of Oklahoma City University in dismissal of professor Wurth for incompetence following the post-tenure review. The court held that “a tenured employee may be discharged from employment for such causes as conduct involving moral turpitude or failure to maintain the level of competence necessary for tenure” (Wurth v. Okla. City Univ., 1995). Thus far, dismissals resulting from post-tenure reviews are rare, possibly due to ambiguous policies guiding the process of such dismissals. Unfortunately, policies for post-tenure reviews appear to be a inconsistently implemented formality driven by the need to appease the public calls for more accountability. (Barnard & Wang, 2008). Court cases and reviews of policies may help define more actionable criteria for post-tenure reviews that would assure accountability while protecting academic freedom of tenured faculty.

18 March 2020

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